One year ago today I joined this community. It was quite good. It had been an aspiration of mine to be some kind of gaming writer type person for around five years prior, since I used to immerse myself in the UK Official Nintendo Magazine of ye olden days, and dream of being one of those guys. The guys whose words inform, provoke, entertain: charged with the passion of one’s interests, regardless of how niche they may be. Writing for an audience that is eager to listen is really what I’ve wanted to do with my time, and one year and twenty-eight articles later (four front paged – thanks!) I think I’ve found the place to do so. Destructoid is a great entity to be a part of with a fantastic cast of writers, so I’d like to give my gratitude to every person who has made this place the glorious geek haven/common sense/intellectually stimulating/profoundly entertaining/Also, Cocks/Chad Concelmo/welcoming place that it is. Happy fourth, and here’s to many more to come. Peace.
So then, this other thing. I’ll set the scene. It begins on a snowy evening of utmost despair. My partner and I were attending the wedding reception of a cousin of mine, arriving late when the atmosphere had already winded down. The celebratory pig had been unknowingly wheeled out leaving us no food, elderly relatives that even I didn’t know were out to cheek-kiss every being in sight that hadn’t been on this planet to know what the seventies were like, and the dance floor was plugged with traditional British cheese. Not the edible kind; the stuff that makes your ears curl and want to either end your life or put on a sweater vest and boogie at that very moment. So, in light of the terrible music and no expensive food to eat (is there any other reason to attend a wedding?) we began the dialogue tract which would conceive the following story: first, how amazing would it be if it were Chad’s song from the last Retroforce playing up there, second, to finger banging (still part of the dialogue) and finally, she turned to me and asked, “how awesome would a Chad Concelmo/Phoenix Wright fanfic be!?” Oh dear, I thought.
I’d take it as a testament to what Destructoid is. We don’t talk of it as we would other gaming websites; it’s not a place I visit solely to get news, or to have my peace of mind validated with a review number. This is something else entirely, though what exactly that is would require more words than I could ever understand.
I take no credit for the following. Only minor edits and some horrendous evidence that I need to learn/buy Photoshop were a result of my hand. Everything else, however twisted, brutal, insane, (adjective) was a result of her hard work and knowledge of this place. So without further word count, I do hope you enjoy the following tale, as I know she does too. Happy Birthday!
(Aside: I also hope you enjoy Retroforce Go, the Ace Attorney series, Sterling's Videogame Show, and are aware of the horrors of slash fiction. It’s going to be a big one!)
Yeah, I remember this bit. It was from the second game, wasn't it?
Turnabout Old Lady Punched in the Face
It was a cold Sunday morning and Gumshoe had better places to be, one of which would be his own warm bed. However there would be serious trouble if he didn't get this mess cleared up as soon as possible: the park was empty at the moment but soon people would wake to the world and this gruesome murder. The body of the elderly woman lay face down on the dewy grass, about 5 metres from the path with a young ash tree between the two. She was found by man walking his dog; if only he could get a nickel for every time someone with a dog found a body... Well he would have a lot of nickels. Gumshoe being the first on the scene could only assume this is how the killer had left the scene and that nothing had been disturbed. He scanned the area looking for anything out of the ordinary, which could give him some idea who could have done such a thing. To his disappointment there was nothing to make his job easier. Checking to make sure that there was no one else around he turned his attention to the deceased. After reassuring himself that there was nothing vital on the back of the body he reached to turn it over.
“Gumshoe!” The sudden exclamation made him jump out of this skin and a small yelp escaped his lips. He stood up quickly and swivelled on his heels so fast he nearly fell backward on to the corpse. “Careful you buffoon” Edgeworth's scowling face loomed in front of him. “Your be glad to hear that the killer has already handed himself in. So hurry up and wrap this scene up already.” Edgeworth was going to continue by adding in a few other insults, but after noticing that Gumshoe's attention had already wandered past his figure he turned head to follow the ape-ish detectives’ line of sight. The man he saw made his heart sink to his stomach: Phoenix Wright. He didn't have a clue why he was here but he'd soon find out. Leaving Gumshoe to do his detective act and stormed up to Phoenix. “Don't tell me you’re the Defence for the suspect. This is clearly a guilty verdict so there isn't much for you to do anyway, Wright.”
“I, erm. Well. I haven't actually met up with my client yet.” He had received a mysterious phone call that morning, not even an hour ago asking him to defend the supposed killer. In an attempt to avoid a confrontation such as this he had hurried to the scene of the crime before meeting with the man. “I'll have to speak to him before any plead can be decided,” he replied quickly, his face reddening, before attempting to psychically damn Edgeworth for knowing more about his client then him. They were both distracted from their bickering by Gumshoe's yelling.
“Hey you guys, you had better check this out.” He waved them other. “Someone's punched this old lady in the face.” As they both approached they could plainly see that that was just what had happened. There was a fist imprint directly in the centre of her face. “Gawd, that must have been one hell of a right hook.”
“Who could have actually done that?” Phoenix looked and gasped; it would have taken beyond human strength to leave a mark like that.
“The man waiting in jail for you.” Edgeworth bluntly answered him. “Now I advise you stop nosing around here and go sort out your plea. I will see you in court.” Phoenix stood there a few moments trying to think of some kind of comeback, however finding that the words had failed him he settled on sulking off with his tail between his legs.
Picture unrealted to scene.
Phoenix had riled himself up to face the man who had already claimed his guilt. He had read the files of Chad Concelmo; there were no previous convictions or anything that would suggest he could commit such a serious offence. He walked in the familiar room and gained his first look at the blond man with his boyish charm.
“Mr Concelmo?” Phoenix sat down on the chair and observed him from the other side of the glass partition.
“Just call me Chad.” He looked nervously in to in lap. “I think you might have made a mistake mister...”
“Wright, Phoenix Wright.” He imputed felling like an idiot using such a sleazy line.
“ I didn't hire any defence attorney. I'm... guilty.” At the last word his eyes filled with tears. All it took was that look for Phoenix to know that the man before him was innocent from the depths of his heart. All he had to now was find out why he was lying.
“I'm not sure who called me to take your case, but whoever they were they assured me that you were being falsely charged and I believe them.” Phoenix gave him his best winning smile. “Its okay Chad, I can get you off.” Phoenix nearly face palmed as he realised what just said, he had never been so embarrassed but at least it seemed to have cheered Chad up who has attempting not to laugh. “That came out wrong. What I mean is if you just tell me why you're pleading guilty then maybe I can sort it out.” Chad actively looked round the room before leaning as close as possible to the Perspex glass.
“Okay, I didn't do it and what's more I know who did. It was…” Chad recoiled for a second, before continuing his sentence. “It was Jim. He was always jealous of my special ability to summon cute animals to my aid. Oh, and I'm way more popular then him.” He whispered to Phoenix who was completely bemused at what he was hearing. “He told me that if I didn't confess to the crime then he would destroy my ultimate rare copy of Mega Man 2, still in its original case. Whilst that game is still in his possession I can't change my plead.”
“Ah I see.” Lied Phoenix, the entire story had gone completely over his head. He would have to ask Maya if she was aware who mega man was. “Don't worry Chad I promise I'll get mega man back before the trial starts.” Chad's face lit up.
“Thank you so much. This is more then I could have hoped for. I wish I knew who hired you so I could thank them too.” Chad's entire persona seemed to have altered from the shy, terrified man before they had spoken.
“It's my job to help innocent people Chad so the pleasure is all mine.” Phoenix blurted out and nearly immediately wishing he had said something a lot cooler and less clichéd. Still blushing he awkward got out of his seat and grabbed his suitcase. “Well I'll get in contact when I've made any progress.”
“I look forward to hearing from you.” Chad nodded politely as Phoenix fumbled at the door handle. Once out of the room Phoenix took in a deep breath to slow his heart, not understanding why he was so shaken. It was quite normal for him to be nervous about a case but not like this. Once he had gathered himself and gained a lot of strange looks from people passing by the police station he headed back to his office.
Don't they look adorable in their fancy sweaters!
He was surprised to find Maya already waiting in the office for him when he arrived. She was sitting crossed legged behind the desk doodling with a bored expression across her face.
“Maya. Just the person I wanted to see.” She looked up at Phoenix, obviously excited about the prospect of doing some snooping. “Do you have any idea what a mega man is?”
“Mega Man?” She gave him and all knowing look. “You don't know what Mega man is, you have to be kidding me.” She gathered from Phoenix's hurt expression that he was not in anyway joking. “Well it's a video game series.”
“Ah that makes slightly more sense and at the same time even less sense.” Phoenix explained the conversation he had had with Chad to Maya, who nodded sympathetically.
“What a sad story, anyone would do the same if the video game they loved were in danger. We have to help him Nick!” She pounded her fist in to her open hand. “Where does this Jim person live? We can break in and get the game back.”
“Well helping him was the idea.” Phoenix sighed at Maya's enthusiasm “However I don't like the idea of breaking in to someone's house. I've also got no idea where to start looking for this guy. I guess I could ask Gumshoe if he has any idea who he is.”
“Why didn't you ask Chad?” Maya watched with amusement as Phoenix realised what a moron he had been not asking for more information. “Well too late now, I guess we can only hope that Gumshoe know something.”
After a brief conversation with Gumshoe, it Phoenix discovered that Edgeworth had gotten the supposed real killer as a witness knowing that he would probably end up persuading the client to plead not guilty. So, much badgering with the prosecutor later, Phoenix had gotten one Mr. Jim Sterling's address and was standing outside of the house, with Maya confidently upright beside him.
“Right Nick, remember the plan.” She looked up expectantly at him. “You go in and distract him and I'll go around the back and snoop around for the Mega Man 2.”
“I'm not so sure about this Maya.” He shifted back and forth on his feet, “If we get caught then we are in huge trouble.” Maya rolled her eyes at this statement and let out an annoyed whine.
“You promised Chad you would get his game back and if you don't then he'll go to prison. We don't have the time to go down the proper channels.” Maya began to push Phoenix towards the door.
“Okay, your right.” He puffed himself up and strolled up to the door. Maya ran around the back as fast as possible, she just hoped that Nick could keep him talking long enough, or that he hid the game in the most obvious place. She clumsily hoisted herself over the fence in to the back garden and looked through the windows in to what she gathered was the living room. She couldn't believe her luck as she managed to slide the door open with ease.
It was like any other living room she had been in apart from the giant flat screen TV and the huge collection of game consoles and games. She could hear mummers of the Nick and the other guy's conversation, causing her to remember her original task. “Please be here,” she whispered to herself as she hunted around the room. Until finally, when moving on to the next room, she noticed an NES box poking out from under the sofa. She quickly snatched it up and bolted out of the door. Much to her dismay, it was a lot hard to climb over the fence with one hand, but she didn't want to risk breaking the pristine cardboard case. Finally she made it over and around the front to Nick with the game securely in her bag.
“I’ve told you my Uncle Reg, doesn’t live here. If he’s been up to something again then go check his own place?” The monocle-clad man was starting get annoyed at Phoenix's rather obscure questions.
“Yeah, you're probably right. Well I better get back to my office so I can, you know, write up a report.” Phoenix had never been so happy to see Maya. “We shall see you tomorrow.” He did an awkward wave and backed off slowly. Jim gave him an equally strange look and closed the door. “ Please tell me that I haven't just made myself seem like a complete idiot for nothing.”
“I'm sorry Nick.” Maya watched Phoenix's face drop. “I looked everywhere, but I found it under the sofa.”
“You what.” He growled as he realised that she was teasing him. “You're horrible. I really thought that you hadn't found it. Anyway I can't wait to tell Chad, he's going to be over the moon.” Maya could have sworn that he was almost skipping but decided to hold off teasing him some more.
If you've played the series you'll know where this bit slots in
As promised, Chad retracted his guilty plea, and now faced the horrifying torment of a grilling from Edgeworth.
“Is it true of not that you are often quoting how you enjoy punching elderly women in the face?” He pointed accusingly at Chad, who was beginning to crack under the pressure.
“Well, that's taken out of context, of course its going to sound bad out of context.” he stammered. “I would never actually do it, I'm not strong enough to kill someone with a single punch. I don't know anyone that strong, well apart from Brad... but he didn't do it either.” He stuttered.
“Let me clear this up, you admitted to the crime and now you've retracted you statement.” Edgeworth pulled out a piece of evidence believed to be the murder weapon. “Tell me straight. Does this or does it not belong to you.” He held it up in front of Chad.
“OMG, I would recognize that anywhere.” Chad gasped in shock. “That’s mine. It’s my Power Glove!”
“Power Glove?” Edgeworth, along with most people in the courtroom gave Chad an extremely sceptical look. “So that makes everything clear then. You Mr. Concelmo used the enhanced power of this Power Glove to murder this old lady with a single punch to the face.”
“OBJECTION!” Maya had shockingly shouted from the stand, much to the judge’s disdain. “Everyone knows that the Power Glove doesn’t actually work. This case is obviously set up. It would take an incredibly hefty man to take out the old lady in one punch.”
The people turned once more to Chad. “Its a controller accessory for the NES. Jim must have taken it from me when he raided my house. By which he also threatened to destroy the copy of Mega Man 2 he stole if I didn't tell everyone that I killed her.” There was general disruption in the courtroom as everyone turn to face the accused man.
“Damn it and Damn you with you cute animal powers.” Jim slammed his fist on the panel in front. “You get to be tall and thin and loved, while I have to live the life of a fat guy.” Phoenix, as confused as ever by this spectacular pantomime unfolding in front of his eyes, turns to Maya. “Is this seriously just about being fat? What’s wrong with that?” She retorted, “Don’t be silly Nick, its common knowledge that fat people have no credibility in the gaming world!” The police manoeuvred to grab hold of Jim before he could make a break for the exit. He tried to struggle against them but it was fruitless, they soon had him detained. “I'll get you back for this Chad and you Phoenix Wright.” He yelled at them while the escorts dragged him from the courtroom.
“Well I think this solves this case.” The judge banged his gavel down to get the attention of the entire court. “In the circumstances I believe it is only far to acquit you off all charges Mr Concelmo.” Phoenix couldn't help but leap up with joy as Gumshoe threw down the confetti he had made the previous night. Yet he could help but feel a pang of pain in his heart for now he had no reason to be with or even talk to Chad. Phoenix meet up with the man he saved just outside the courtrooms straight afterwards, hoping he could speak with him without creeping him out at all.
“You were amazing.” Chad pulled him in to a friendly hug. “Without you I would have pleaded guilty and not even gone to trial.” He beamed at Phoenix who was doing his best to return the smile with the doubts in his heart.
“Thank you, but you were the one who did the hard work.” Phoenix stared down at his shoes. “So I guess this is goodbye then.”
“It doesn't have to be you know.” He gave him a sly smile. “Meet me at the docks in about an hour. I've got something to show you.” and before Phoenix had the chance to ask him what he had already dashed off.
He approached the docks at first not seeing anyone, then at the end of the quay a lone figure stood, the wind blowing through his blond locks. A smile spread across his face as he saw Phoenix coming across the boards, he waved at him to make him hurry.
“Hey Chad.” Phoenix jogged up to him “What is it that you wanted to show me?” He was nearly grinning ear to ear at this point.
“Just watch.” He laughed before placing his fingers in his mouth and whistled as loudly as he could. After a few moments Phoenix heard some splashing in the water below and some high pitched squeaking. Chad took hold of his hand and pulled him in to the water with him, to his delight he discovered that the noises were caused by dolphins. “Come with me Phoenix, I'll teach you about retro gaming and we'll live happily ever after.”
“Oh Chad.” Phoenix swooned. “Of course I will.” With that they each took hold of a dolphin's fin and rode over the rainbow, where as Chad said, they lived happily ever after and Chad got to finger bang Phoenix as much as his heart desired.
Don't worry Phoenix. It's supposed to hurt the first time, you'll get used to it.
First I’d like to say Merry Christmas to all, and I hope you get the games you want! I wish that on this eve that everyone on Destructoid is doing fine. I surely am, my import copy of rare GBA title Drill Dozer came through the post this morning and I’m going to play the heck out of it when I’ve finished typing this up.
With 2009 finally coming to a close, the many people of this earth are winding down in true seasonal tradition with mince pies, eggnog, and that bad kind of alcohol you only keep for the holidays, as they await the events that are to come in the New Year. And decade! This is quite a big event – one that only happens every ten years – and effectively is the beginning of a new era for us all. Lets hope it’s a good one.
It’s a time for reflection of the months that have just been, and that is what I dedicate this piece to. Regardless of the magnitude of this impending event on our horizon, I won’t undertaking a massively ambitious/awesome list of Destructoid’s epic end-of-the-year standards, but rather pay tribute to this year’s gaming achievements. Of which there have been many! Like the excellent previous year, and the even better year before that, 2009 has brought in an enormous amount of great titles that you’ll likely still be seeking out in the bargain bins well into next year. There are (probably) hundreds of individuals to cover and not enough blog space to fit them all in, but heck it, it’s Christmas, a time for goodwill and all that, so I’m going to give it my best. Anyway, without any further waiting, here is a highly nerdish proposal of the last twelve months of gaming, from my (frankly Nintendo-centric) perspective. Warning: reading this blog in its entirety may induce loss of desired time, light-headedness, and complaints as to why yourfavouritegame wasn’t on there.
January and Febuary (Dawn of 2009 edition) The beginning of the year couldn’t have gone more swiftly, as we were given a pair of fantastic handheld titles in the form of Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia and the previously unreleased-in-the-UK Chrono Trigger. For some of us this would be a bigger event than the end of the decade itself, but those shiftier among us in Britain (like myself) had been rummaging through play-asia a few months before, and imported a copy from the States. What was I doing at midnight, New Years Day when a friend called me up to see how I was celebrating? Why, I was lying flat on the couch with my chunky old DS, fighting my way through Zeal Palace. Best. Celebration. Ever.
Arguably the biggest release in this period though was Street Fighter 4; a beautiful game whose months of sheer mountainous praise had enveloped me to the point that, upon playing the game I’ll still enjoy it even though I totally suck. Hopping online and having my ass handed to me within ten seconds because I can’t pull off a combo has never been this much fun! I’ve taken a vow that, one day, I will pass the easy difficulty on arcade, and maybe even have a shot at normal.
The end of February also brought in the Guinness Book of World Records’ sweariest game ever, House of the Dead: Overkill, and saw the advent of Nintendo whoring out old Gamecube games and selling them for next to full price, with New Play Control Pikmin. Find them for less than a tenner and they’re worth a shot, but for the £30 retail price, Nintendo you can shove them up your poo-hole.
This signified a turning point in British history. The point where Square finally removed the boot from our collective ass.
March (M Rated Edition) This month proved if anything that “mature” games on Nintendo systems don’t sell. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was an excellent little top down kill-em-all-up, but didn’t achieve Rockstar’s usual big-name sales, resulting in a PSP port later in the year. MadWorld also did little for Sega and Platinum Games, despite being quite a cool title. Maybe that it’s the kind of game you really have to stick with to enjoy hindered its progress. My first impressions were that it was a rather gory yet boring affair, but it wasn’t until a few months later upon popping the disc back in that I finally started to appreciate it for what it was.
Online flame wars were robust in March with the excellent Killzone 2’s release (isn’t Killzone one of the stupidest names for a game you’ve ever heard?) and the awesome but just a little bit disappointing Resident Evil 5. Did anyone else get the sense that Weskers’ character had been transformed from ten years of ultimate-cool super villain with all the answers, to a regular old megalomaniac nut who wants to take over the world in that game?
Elsewhere, Americans were treated to Excitebots this month, with not a European release window anywhere to be seen. Coincidentally, it was released around the time that envious Brits began regarding 2008’s UK exclusive, Disaster: Day of Crisis, from “well it wasn’t that good anyway” back to “well at least we have this.” At least they were paid tribute in the charmingly British Henry Hatsworth later that month. No, we don’t all wear bowler hats and drink cups of tea, but it would be cool if we did.
April and May (Musical Edition) Was the time for the music rhythm game to shine. The massive tracklist accompanying Rock Band 2 is finally released on PS3 even though Microsoft had it for the last five months, with the fully functional Wii version slated to release alongside. Except it doesn’t. And is systematically given a new release date and delayed each month until competitor Guitar Hero 5 comes out. Sucks to be you, Wii version of Rock Band 2. Quirky Rhythm Paradise/Heaven/Tengoku depending on your region also came to light within these months, offering some challenging fun gameplay for anyone who has the patience to complete its impossible tasks. Watching the little medal in the corner crumble as you fail a perfect run is a nigh on soul crushing experience that your average human wont be able to bear. Which is why my copy currently sits on the shelf half-finished.
Did you buy Little Kings Story? Nope, neither did I, but I probably should have as it’s been one of the most critically well received games of the year. It’d be a few more months ‘til America got it, but the game is released to high praise and low sales, quickly dropping its price by up to half. Why do I still not have a copy at that bargain price? Because stupid.
Pokémon Platinum proves to be more of the same, and Punch Out!! has me fearing whether motion controls will make this new game somehow easier, to make up for the time delay it takes to swing rather than press a button. After a hands on, my initial doubts about the title are silently put to rest, yet in the worst way possible. This is one of the absolute hardest games on the Wii to date. I’m stuck on Piston Hondo in Title Defence mode, and probably will be for many months to come. And that’s not even half the game! I just want to fight the secret guest character at the end already!
Oh, and Majora’s Mask comes out on the Virtual Console. In three words I’d describe it as a darkly fairytale masterpiece, and you should have already completed it three times it by now. If not, why not?
My perfect Christmas gifts: An outside-world nullifying chair, a Classic Controller Pro, and 1000 Nintendo points to buy Majora's Mask with. Take note.
June and July (Everyone only cares about E3 Edition) The DSi is out by now, and so is DSiWare, but nobody cares about that at the moment. Everyone is too hung up on the debate about which is better: the apparently Xbox exclusive Prototype, or the definitely Playstation exclusive Infamous. Given the kind of rabid ranting that goes on here you’d be hard pressed to find any facts within this “debate” (read: full scale war), and having played neither myself I’m not in the position to make a judgement call, so I suggest you’d divert your attention to Bloom Blox Blash Party for a second: the game that carries far too many ‘B’s in its typeface. Its fun though, so I can excuse it for being stupid to voice.
June was also the month where Europe managed to one-up America once more on the Wii, with the release of Another Code R: Something About Memories. Those still bitter about Excitebots can finally rest now that the balance is finally regained, and once more acknowledge Disaster as the middling-average game it was (Now that I think about it, we still don’t have Mario Super Sluggers yet. Or an official Trauma Center 2 release). Oh, and Trace Memory fans in America, you can assume that the dog-doo dropped through your letterbox on the 26th was Reggie doing a quick hit-and-run. Because he hates you all.
Oh, and after all the fanfare for some reason, The Conduit: Special Edition (as opposed to its nonexistent regular edition) comes out. And its crap. I called it The Condushit after finishing the five-hour campaign, because shit is a word that sounds like it and means bad which is also a word that accurately describes my experience with The Conduit. A drab, lifeless shooter with the only saving grace being some nice controls and its (now hacked/butchered) multiplayer. Just rubbish, I say. I only hope that The Grinder turns out to be more entertaining.
The true highlight of the J months for me was easily the arrival of Motion Plus. It may have come bundled with a couple of sports games in June, but it wasn’t until six weeks later when the real showpiece hit the shelves. Making a sword arc in Wii Sports Resort is a flawless and amazing feat to witness, in a package that’s full of technological achievements. Whether it’s flying your plane over Wuhu Island, or carefully aiming your bow at a lingering piece of fruit on the horizon, Resort is an absolute joy to experience. Sure a couple of the twenty or so games are a bit guff, but there is a heck of a lot to enjoy here. If only it came with two Motion Plus devices it would be perfect. Or maybe if Nintendo just decided to give us Brits a break and lower their hardware prices a little. A full kitted out Wii Remote over here can cost upwards of £70!
August and September (Why did you forget about the PSPgo Edition) First I’d like to give a big sarcastic thank you to Namco-Bandai, who after six months of being available elsewhere, finally decide to release Tales of Vesperia in the UK just mere weeks after the announcement of an upcoming extra-featured PS3 version. Release date pending. I’ve been waiting ages for that title to come here, but now feel the irrational need to hold off even longer so not to own the inferior version. It’s slightly annoying.
Right now you should be out of the shops and in the living room downloading stuff, like Fat Princess, Shadow Complex, as well as the entire Summer of Arcade line-up. If leaving the house is on the cards though, August held the winner of the coveted Guinness Book of World Records Made Up award for best gaming graphic novel adaptation. Arkham Asylum brings together a classic cast and plays a quality game to boot, far better received than this years’ other big licensed game, Ghostbusters. Also in August is Nintendo’s quick-to-issue apology for The Conduit; the handsomely bargainous Metroid Prime Trilogy. Its strange how they decide to release the two NPC games worth playing along with their two-year-old Wii counterpart in a reasonably priced box while other NPC games get given the £Stupid treatment, but I won’t question their logic because this is a great deal. The only thing to weep over is how we got given a cardboard sleeve around a plastic box, while America got a fancy metal case. Darn you overseas people and your nice things.
For the vintage music lovers out there, The Beatles happened, and it was good. For one of the most ambitious projects of the year, albeit in gaming history, capturing the magic and vibrancy of the Fab Four was a feat that could have gone either way, yet Harmonix nailed it. The game doesn’t play as a cash-in on the rhythm genre, but a document and celebration of the gang’s career, bringing in a whole new audience hurtling towards their classic albums. Any of those snobs whose opinion dictates that music games are some kind of parasite on the industry because they’re “not the proper way people should be listening” can go stick it. Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of music before I got my first Guitar Hero about three years ago, but I’m certainly thankful for the experiences that these games have gave me now. My new favourite band could come with the next disc or piece of DLC I decide to purchase, which is an excitement in itself!
Handheld’s round off the end of August and September, with Square-Enix’s hilariously angst ridden Dissidia: Final Fantasy, the second chapter of the first Professor Layton trilogy, and Kirby’s year-long delayed DS adventure, Super Star Ultra. On the subject of long DS delays, when are we going to get releases for Contra 4 and Chibi Robo: Park Patrol? Come on Nintendo of Europe; fess up with them games. We know you have them somewhere.
"You have spunk kid, but all the spunk in the world wont save you now." Actual line from the game. Now I realize why this was never localised for the UK.
October (Game of the Year Edition) Its getting colder outside and the nights are becoming longer, which is a perfect excuse to start playing more videogames. Yes that’s pretty much what’s been going down for the last six warmer months, but at least I have an excuse not to go outside now without feeling like a loser. Lucky that these dark times are those when all the biggest releases are finally cast upon us.
At the beginning of October I told my partner of a game she may be interested in called Dragon Age: Origins, which was quickly shirked off as “not Elder Scroll’s enough.” Then at the end of November she learned there was man-on-man elf sex in it and ordered it that very day. Clocking around nine of sixteen waking hours in front of the TV once it had arrived, I had to drag her vacant shell off the couch just so we could spend some time together. Apparently a good game if you’re into large-scale role-playing games and/or slash fiction.
About five Game of the Year editions were released in October, chronicling last winters biggest exploits with al the DLC. Gears of War, Left 4 Dead, Fable II, I guess Halo 3: ODST (in the sense that it’s a multiplayer compilation) come back to public eye, along with Fallout 3 on both consoles. Fun fact: purchasing each individual DLC pack for Fallout 3 (only released last month) will cost you roughly twice as much as buying the GOTY online. £8 x 5 = £40, or buy it from Gamestation for £20. Makes you wonder why they even bothered releasing it as a downloadable, let alone put that peculiar price tag on each one.
On the subject of Fallout, that along with Borderlands made people wonder why western RPG’s can’t do satisfying endings in 2009. Like Bioshock beforehand, these were each great experiences, somewhat spoiled by a rather tacky conclusion. Is it just that the words don’t exist in the English language that say, “this is the end and it was good.”
Finally, Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story is a game I’ll be receiving for Christmas if my brother has taken to the not-so-subtle hints I’ve been giving him for the past week. “This is the game, here is where you can buy it, now go fetch,” are the wise words of the day, and words that I hope will take effect. Maybe waving the expensive copy of Left 4 Dead 2 I got for his birthday will further help sway him into getting it.
I’d do a bit about Demon’s Souls, but y’know, we don’t have it yet. Not even a release date. Bastards.
November (Boycott edition) November was full of big things; big game releases, big spending for the holidays, the movie Big was probably on some channel that nobody paid attention to, but most of all, it was home to some big boycotts. Two of the vastest titles of the year, and also two of the most successful, were subject to some gargantuan groups of people refusing to buy their enormous products (That’s the last time I use a thesaurus). And it wasn’t just limited to angry parents and nutty politicians this time. Whether it was Modern Warfare 2’s lack of dedicated serpents, or Left 4 Dead 2’s mere existence, gamers across the world found reason not to be happy. Many brought them anyway though, and all was well again.
After years of waiting, November finally bought Sony the opportunity to say that it’s the best time to buy a PS3, without lying. A fancy re-design and a ton of exclusives did a lot for the Playstation brand this year. Of course, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves is cropping up to be a lot of our Game of 2009’s, whereas the final risqué titled Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time shows us the meaning of colour again. It’s exactly how platformers should be: bright with lots of shiny bits flying towards you, and would certainly be on my Christmas wish list if it weren’t for the fact that I only got around to starting the second game on PS2 yesterday.
It was a real return for the platformer this month, not limited to the 3D offerings however. New Super Mario Brothers Wii (they are going to regret that name one day) comes to the public, and is an absolute blast to play with a friend. I went through it with my Mario-hating partner and had a lot of fun together, shocked that it quickly became her favourite game at the time. It wasn’t all great for the title though: kids hated on the super guide as it apparently made the game “too casual,” whatever that means, and the usual complaints are filed saying that it was too easy. This is countered by my brandishing a seven-hour Modern Warfare 2 Veteran completion time, and the many hollow indents I still need to fill with star coins in the near-impossible World 9.
Also, Vanillaware’s beautiful Muramasa: The Demon Blade reaches earth, along with A Bloy and his Blob: 2009’s other game with difficult-to-pronounce ‘B’ abuse. Couple these three side scroller’s with Wario Land: The Shake Dimension and have yourself a new-age retro party.
Everyone clamours to be blue toad in multiplayer. Because he's awesome.
December (Signing off edition) And so it finally comes to an end, with only the last few days to go. One of them holds a title turning out to be one of my most anticipated of the year, proving that there’s still life left in this old cycle. The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks is Nintendo’s decade swansong that I can’t wait to get my hands on, hopefully managing to better Phantom Hourglass in my mind. And if you’re in the States you’re probably putting the final touches on God of War Collection or Silent Hill: Shattered Memories: both of which will be arriving here early next year.
So that’s 2009 in gaming as I saw it. You may now pick apart this humble tribute and ask me pressing questions such as “why is somethingorother not in it?” or “what is it that makes you hate the PSP?” Sure, there are many games that I’ve forgotten or are currently ignorant of, which will probably make up the cheap-bin titles I’ll be into next year. Heck, I still have copies of Mass Effect and Lost Planet still waiting to be put in the disc tray, and they’re from back in 2007.
Lots of things happened this year. We got to see some new guy spend his first year in office as president of the USA, the King of Pop passed away, the large Hadron Collider didn’t decimate the entire universe, and Cowboy Bebop got a DVD re-release, amongst many other events that will certainly start off the years to come. I’m going to maybe take a moment to think about those non-gaming events that have affected my life over the last 365 days, because videogames, as fascinating as they are, aren’t the only important aspect of our lives.
Okay, moment’s over. I’m off to my Game Boy Advance.
Cheers to everyone at Destructoid, and in the community. Happy Holidays, and here’s to a great new year!
My story emerges from one of those cold autumn afternoons, sometime mid-October where brown leaves painted the pavements with a crisp diverting colour and nights begin to creep in ever sooner. Dusk settles its darkened soul at around five in the quaint little hometown I’ve come to know, yet at this particular hour I’m finding myself out on the streets, searching for something unknown. A friend of a friend in idle conversation tipped me off about some joint down the south side, place where few venture and I seldom been in three years living this way. Location seems to have been hit hard with injustice: barren with wooden windows and hoods at every retreat. Turns out a store just opened down there a month ago who have no idea how to price videogames though, so I guess the risk is worthwhile.
Emerging the shadowed alley to the location, I tread lightly down a new path, fingers pressed in a solemn V toward my lips. Slowly I remove them, and ruffle the cold air in front with my breath, like a cigarette that doesn’t exist. Instant credibility to the slouched youths on the other side, nudging their collective heads in my direction. I feel like one of them: harder boiled than an egg that’s been in a few minutes too long and even the Nintendo snuggie I’m using to keep warm can’t deflate that. Across the road I view my target, quietly framed by two trees, inviting me with their almost picturesque stance. Rustling the leaves on my way I proceed to enter its wide opening, to discover the kinds of bargains that needed to be found. Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for only eight of my coins, I say to myself, in a gruff yet unmistakably British voice. Immediately I hand my pounds to the tall, bottle nosed man behind the horribly beige counter, and shuffle the item into my inventory.
With the deed done, I leave the store taking a moment to fix my eyes onto the gleaming full moon, and reflect on the kinds of adventures that may await me in this mysterious hotel. Taking another puff on my fingers, I turn to the darkened alley from whence I arrived, and run back into my old life. Away from the darker side of town, away from the gang of hooded youths currently in pursuit, away from my story.
Every man secretly dreams to look like this and/or be with another who looks like this.
I think there comes a time in every man’s life where he wants to be Kyle Hyde. Not only an incredibly handsome individual, but throughout his investigation within the walls of Hotel Dusk he’s the kind of guy who consistently exerts that laid-back, slightly jerky charm only reserved for those existing inside a time-period long passed. A man of the people, transcending gender, culture and age; unbound by life’s shackles and only still in existence himself to maybe share a smoke and a story with those weary travellers who happen to stumble upon his person. It’s fitting, that it’s on a dusty highway somewhere in Los Angeles on the eve of December 1979, where we first meet the travelling salesman central to this tale. Most people would be in their homes with their families celebrating the dawn of a new year, not to mention a new decade just on the horizon. Not our guy. With only the coat on his back and a story in his pocket, three days after Christmas he finds himself on a job in the middle of nowhere: truly fortifying that essence of freedom bound into the atmosphere around him.
The twin screen visual style is quite appealing to the eye. Should-be static characters sway with a lovely pencily vibrancy, thanks to the fantastic art direction.
At its heart, Room 215 is a story about people’s lives intertwined who just happen to find each other. If the mood takes to drag out a particularly overused cliché, they are also on a journey to find themselves. A distinctly melancholic tale is presented, of people alone, simply drifting through life during the holiday period because they have nothing else to do. In this late winter they manage to find each other, interact with each other, and ultimately help each other. The real beauty however, comes from the magic’s at work turning the gears within this straightforward narrative, to bring the cast of mismatches together.
Perhaps the most significant element that struck me during my stay was the way its characters are handled. You’ll quickly learn that the residents and guests each have a very distinctive background hiding behind their name, as well as some rather sinister motives for occupying this unknown place during the festive season, yet still, even with this clash of personalities they manage to inhabit a world without prejudice. In fact some of the most poignant moments for myself were in thirty-something Kyle’s interactions with a young girl, who is waiting to finally see her mother. Watching these two diametric forces respond to each other on the same level brings quite the many beautiful occurrences in themselves (my favourite being a simple “puzzle” involving a Christmas tree), and best of all, there’s not a single accusation of being a child predator to be found. Juxtapositions and social taboos from today’s culture take centre stage and help shape a memorable tale you’ll take with you long after it’s reached its final weave. I entered those double doors expecting a murder mystery affair, but upon leaving I knew I held something much more. A commentary of sorts, on the nature of human interaction and those silly fallacies that crop up in our own time period, if you choose to interpret it that way. It is very clear that Hotel Dusk resides in a completely different world to us.
A 2009 version of Hotel Dusk was planned, but had to be scrapped after five minutes in, the story suddenly ends and sees Kyle Hyde being arrested for conversing with an eight-year-old girl. How our times have changed.
Not just in spirit, but technology to boot. Much care and attention has been provided to the atmosphere in order to make it feel like you’re living a noir-fiction at the end of the decade. Us humble observers of the 21st Century are in for a trip back in time, to a world where seventeen inches of screen is considered luxury, computers are a completely alien concept, and picking up a screwdriver falls under the criteria of exciting event. (1) As an individual whose knowledge of the seventies extends merely to “that one after what The Beatles did”, it was intriguing for me to discover what they actually did for entertainment back then. Turns out that they used to engage in an art lost to many of this generation: they chatted. Good old fashioned talking to each other. After a generation of living in an environment defined by the availability of impersonal communication, this blew my mind. Strangers aren’t portrayed by the human eye as intergalactic paedophiles from outer space, and the next person you meet in line is more likely to offer you a cup of tea than question your sexuality. The illogical conclusions the Internet has brought us don’t exist without it: this is a world that I would like to live in. (2)
It’s wonderful, how a man can mock another completely out of the blue, and have no bad blood exist between the two gentlemen. I know if I questioned a random person on the street today and proceeded to tear into their private life, in the regard that Kyle Hyde so often gets away with, id probably end up with a fat lip and a black eye rather than mutual respect. Still, Room 215 somehow manages to portray every human being on the same level and wrap it inside a believable tale. All of them are looking for something in specific, including our protagonist, so there is no sense of a defining social class throughout the entire twenty-hour narration. Even the wisecracking street-thief-turned-janitor achieves the title “brother” from dickish-ex-cop Hyde. And I stress that he’s an ex-cop. It’s been mentioned before that his current profession is that of a seventies cross-country travelling salesman. Heck, any guy who manages to make that job look glamorous must be on the level.
Each guest room of the Dusk has a swish name to it. The "Room 215" of the title is said to grant wishes to those who stay there. Only way to find out is to spend the night.
I could sing the Dusk’s silky atmosphere praises to high heaven for the next four paragraphs, as I believe its one of those rare occurrences that everyone in this business should experience, but how does the game built around it fare. As it turns out, not so great. Presented over the double screens (held out like a book, Kawashima style) are a map and a three-dimensional image of where you’re facing, controlled via either the pad or touch screen. The 3D image isn’t controlled as you’d expect however, making it a little jarring at first as you press the natural forward to see your character do a 180 about himself. Also are the presence of Game Over’s, which simply cannot be avoided for the most part. There are a few key points throughout the story where it’s possible to be kicked out the hotel, and I think I tripped all of them. You’re not warned of these moments at all, so the only way to get past them is to either fall into the game’s obscure logical crevice, (3) or just accept the fact that you’ll be replaying some of the more frustrating elements a few more times than you’d like.
The games “puzzles” can also be considered a crippling factor, as more often than not they will demand annoyingly precise degrees of stylus prodding. (The only reason I managed to get through the “circle the handwriting” task halfway through was because I watched someone else lose their mind over why it wouldn’t register beforehand) And I continue to use quotations for the word, as they’re rarely challenging enough to be considered puzzling in the slightest, instead serving more interactive interludes to break up the pages of script on offer.
On the other side of the coin, parts of this game can be incredibly clever. For those of you who have previously played Trace Memory, remember how some moments required applying your in-game logistics to the DS hardware itself, in obscure I-didn’t-think-that-would-work ways? (4) Remember how its cunning trickery made you believe the developer had truly stretched the system to its limits? Hotel Dusk one-ups this feeling with one of its later equations, proving once again that Cing is a master of picking out those little instruments you had no idea existed and exploiting them for all to see. Even Nintendo borrowed their notorious debut brain-bender in Phantom Hourglass. That’s the kind of flattery we’re dealing with here.
To oversimplify the exceedingly varied world of videogame storytelling for a second, I believe that every game can be placed into one of three tiers. Tier one represents the downright nasty: maybe a game with a horribly uninteresting tries-too-hard plot that you’re only really stuck into because the game happens to be rather good. Fallout 3’s ending would fit nicely in here. Tier two I reserve for those who house that kind of inoffensive, enjoyable plots that while not groundbreaking, are nice enough for you to pay attention to. Think Street Fighter 4’s loose fabrications accompanying the arcade mode, or the twee “save the princess” stuff you get in Mario. Finally, tier three is home only to the absolute pinnacle of digital storytelling achievement. These are most defined by their sweeping epic scale, emotionally engaging plotlines, and the occasional cases of nerds across the world excitedly pushing them onto cynical film buffs, demanding they accept videogames as a legitimate art form. Your Metal Gear Solid’s, Bioshock’s, Final Fantasy’s would take this prestigious centre stage, and now, for me, Hotel Dusk will join them. I really couldn’t recommend it any more.
Good morning, and I hope that you’ve enjoyed your stay.
The recently announced sequel will see Hyde wearing a suit, looking melancholy in the rain. I'm sold already.
(1)I cite the screwdriver as an ironic example because it’s the one item you can pick up in the entire game that I found no purpose for whatsoever. And now you know!
(2)Your writer is aware of the glory that the Internet has brought us all, as well as the probable dirty stuff going o in Kyle Hyde’s world, beyond the boundaries of his videogame. Sometimes though, it’s nice to look through a glass window and see the image of a perfect world, and that is how I felt about the minute fragment that Hotel Dusk presented. If only everyone else was like those guys, eh.
(3)There’s actually a secret ending post credits for people who manage to complete the game without bumping into a single game over screen. I defy anyone that actually managed to see this on his or her first time through without using either gamefaq’s or Youtube.
(4)I’ve officially sold out as a Brit failing to call it by its true name, Another Code, (And anyone who cares to debate that claim can have a copy of the Wii sequel shoved in their face) in light of Dtoid’s predominantly American audience. I’ll be stowing away on the next flight from Manchester Airport after I’ve posted this and hopefully parachuting out somewhere over the States where I truly belong. I wonder if I’ll find out what a corn dog is?
Something I love about museums: the diverse locations captured inside those musky buildings are a perfect trigger for old memories. Between sweaty crowds of tourists and schoolchildren in droves, I can pick slivers of the past to entertain my mind away from the increasingly humid environment, and any unpleasant odours that may shift in my direction. It’s like travelling through time, only without the complicated speed-of-light-round-the-sun analogy that makes “real” physics impenetrable to me.
In a recent visit to London’s Museum of Natural History, just a second’s glance at a fully realized dinosaur skeleton was enough to send me back to the time where I actually lived it. Beastly green reptiles actually crossed the earth, dangerous at each corner of a two-dimensional map. The painted foliage around me quickly becomes green with life and sixty five million years flash before me, in a dashing blur of parallax scrolling and mode seven effects. Whisked away, I’m encased in a childlike world of wonder and discovery where anything belonging to that memory is possible. My mind re-shapes as a hero in a distant land; paradise in bloom. The world around me sees a much more distilled image: a blithering idiot, standing in one spot, with anyone attempting communication only hearing faint mumbles of “that time I played Chrono Trigger and it was awesome.” Sure my partner who has to carry around my empty husk for the rest of the day is pissed off, but at least I’m happy, like a small child. In childhood, you don’t really have to think of anything much, apart from what matters to you.
Pictured: Chrono Trigger, through the eyes of someone not quite in touch with reality.
I saw this rock later on, it was blue, and it reminded me of that ice level from Donkey Kong Country 2. Now before it becomes the focus of this piece I’d just like to make a point: I love how people are able to associate these overtly menial objects with old memories. One man’s refuse is another man’s treasure, as the saying goes. It is a beautiful practice to be able to draw out your own past from insignificant glimpses, or subliminal hints from afar. These mortal powers we all contain could essentially pull an adventure out of a dumpster, and in my far-too-optimistic-for-this-day-and-age mind, I’ve come to believe that the whole world is a canvas of beauty and mystery, waiting for our thoughts to paint a story that will be meaningful to our individual lives. Looking over my shoulder, I would have to tread some divine responsibility for my ridiculously sunny outlook on the world of Donkey Kong itself. Still, I’d never have dreamed it any other way. It was just a rock really: ask anyone. But most importantly, it meant something to me.
Somewhere between the ages of seven and ten, I lived this game. And for good reason too. I can fly. I can soar through the trees at blistering speeds. Physics go unquestioned as my hair keeps me afloat from danger, and I’m absorbed by the sounds of the jungle. Music fills the air, pulsing with a powerful tribal rave. Each thump-thump-thump of the drum is met with a squeak-squeak-squeak of enemies being crushed underneath my own weight; the synchronicity of the environment is enough to keep me absorbed here forever, in perfect Zen. Birds chirping, animals squawking, monsoons dripping down in front of my eyes; it created a powerful hypnosis whose effects made you forget that the entire world corresponded to four buttons on a piece of plastic. (If only the rest of the world was this simple.) Miraculously, the tether that binds us to this world is just a single wire that comes out from the television.
The aforementioned ice level. Pretty, ain't it not? I have a thing for shiny surfaces and snow.
As a young person, I loved this game. As an adult, I find it to be a relaxant, allowing passage between two distinctly different ages, while also appreciating some of the more subtle nuances that would have been invisible to me as a child. Off the bat, it pleases me to no end that I can say after fifteen years it is free from the burdens that hindsight brings, and that the expert design I came to remember wasn’t just an illusion created by a different me. Imaginative decisions such as a regularly changing environmental and level structure and a range of different ideas that don’t stop flowing even by the time the credits roll around (and even after) are the lifeblood of this title, showing a degree of care and attention that harks back to a different era. It starts off simple enough, with the kind of by-the-ropes introduction you’d expect from the platform genre. What unfolds then however is a truly enchanting realm, dispersing into a number of challenges that often require eyes from a handful of different perspectives to tackle. Moving through the bramble-infested skyline is difficult on its own, but having to race it through under a time limit, or battle against the transforming winds adds a layer of new challenge to similar environments. As a young boy I didn’t notice the amount of variety that came in this package. Now, the package itself is secondary to the impressive world that yesterdays design team managed to accumulate, keeping a considerably fresh experience apparent throughout its entirely mesmerizing runtime.
It’s not just the world around you that changes either, but you yourself. Developer Rare’s obsession with giving the player a significant number of characters to tackle is not a commodity that began with their Nintendo 64 efforts’ stupefying amount of playable personalities. (1) The reins of many exotic animals will be thrust upon you so frequently that it becomes a way of life. Gliding through the air under the guise of a web-shooting spider soon becomes second nature, as the game tricks your mind into believing in its solid physics. You know when to open a platform in the air in order to swiftly jump across; you know which position you should be to get a perfect strike with the swordfish’s point; you know how long you should be moving forward so to bounce every killer crocodile’s head with that erratic snake. In motion, when your mind is tweaked to its practices the experience is sublime. Before long you’ll find yourself dancing to the sounds of the savannah, scampering through mastered stages like the troubles once overcome with patience and control no longer exist. Engagement takes its meaty clamp on your life for so long that you know the ins and the outs of every mechanic on this planet. Or at least, you think you do.
Beautiful environments exist to be explored at every turn. It's truly a sight to behold.
My greatest fascination with this game - and why I write this with childhood so heavily in hand – is how the mechanics appear to replicate, and epitomize what being young is all about. Take a look at the setting and imagine the kind of backdrops we’ll be involved in during this long adventure: the deck of a pirate ship to inside of a volcano, from a haunted house to misty woods, exploring an icy cave then emerging halfway atop a castle with a zeppelin commanding from above. Naturally beautiful areas are recreated for exploration; so much so that it makes exotic holidays with your parents and the uncle who wandered in whilst planning that much more mysterious (I wonder if there is a flying sword living inside that volcano) and a decade of geography lessons that much more bearable. As children, the world is full of inexplicable mystery and wonder, slowly becoming unravelled with the flow of time. There is no Santa Claus, as far as I care to believe, but there is a beautiful world packed with all sorts of hidden treasures out there; a feeling, which my young life in this Country helped provoke and prolong in me for a later time.
The world’s lore is tied up in around forty stages; some hidden so fiendishly that upon finding them you’ll think the game has broken with something much more uncanny taking its place. There lies its true depth. Tearing down the digital walls you once thought were concrete is akin to the first time you crossed that side of the road, where your parents told you not to play. A great deal of power has entered you, as if anything is possible. Adrenaline kicks in and your mind starts to race around, with the desire to explore overriding the guilt of being in this forbidden valley. It’s all about the thrill of breaking boundaries and running around outside of where you’re supposed to go; a natural compulsion that Donkey Kong Country 2 actually encourages in the player. Constantly you’re teased with the promise of secrets, and information just off camera where you don’t think you can go, followed by the desire to go back and mine every level for what it’s worth. And as I said, if you’re really good you can find the game’s biggest enigma: the hidden Lost World, whose mystifying post-credit existence will twist your perception of simplistic videogames and the world around you forever. (2)
You can search all you like, but you'll never find it. Unless you have ninja skills. Or Gamefaq's.
I also have to admit that as a person who’s just achieved reaching life in his early twenties, I can no longer find these secrets like I could back when a two digit age seemed a lifetime away. I’ve sifted through stacks of old Nintendo magazines, looking for guides I may have used to help me finish the game, ending to no avail. It must be a growing up thing.
Of course, if you didn’t grow up with a Super Nintendo with a young impressionable mind between the ages of something and whatever its unlikely that you can relate, but this was my experience, and that is what I would like to share. Every lifelong gamer has a title (or a few) which is eternally burned into their memories, to on occasion be surfaced to rekindle the brightly burning flames of “those happy times.” This one is mine.
Rare certainly knew how to make blue skies and sparkling oceans. The whole game feels alive!
Retro goggles be gone! Do I still listen to the soundtrack when I’m in the shower because it was actually good or because of the memories I associate with it? The answer would be both. Sound designer David Wise mixed a great array of ambient, exciting and dramatic tunes that perfectly complement the levels they belong to, but they are also great standalone mood pieces (I only have to whisper the name Stickerbrush Symphony for most people to agree) only mildly pushed in the same direction by the innate joy I’ve already tied to this experience. Genre fans, retro heads, and depressives in need of some ambient choons: this it is definitely a game I encourage you all try out at some point, as you’re sure to find something to enjoy within this motley package.
This game’s level of depth, mystery and worldliness was only followed up by Banjo-Kazooie’s ultra-hidden eggs and ice key, which played another childhood obsession of mine a bit later. Nowadays, those classic Rare tropes seem to have fallen away from existence, being bound by the era they were conceived in. My advice: grab a copy now and get yourself on the next backwards ride around the sun, stepping off when you’re approximately eight years old. I’m confident you’ll be in for an exciting journey, both in game and for the many years to come.
One of my favourite box-art's ever. There's so much going on, really gives a shape of things to come.
(1)See Donkey Kong 64: the game that asks you to play each of its worlds five times with five different characters, collecting five different golden bananas, fifty regular bananas, a bunch of banana coins, five blueprints, something called a crystal coconut, these flittering fairy things that only appear while looking through a special camera, and new abilities on every stage. Did I mention you have to do this with every character? I used to lap this up as a kid, but going back to it today just makes me wonder how much I’d rather be doing last nights washing up.
(2) Having a world exist beyond the credits back then blew my tiny little mind. Its only now that I realize Super Mario World did it first, but whatever. You couldn’t play as a monkey in that game, making Donkey Kong infinitely better.
Hi again, how are you today? That's so nice! Me, I've had quite a miserable morning actually. My corkboard knocked over a glass of water damaging my magazine collection, and I forced myself to play the last two levels of The Conduit so I could get this up today. But on the plus, yes, I do put posting stuff on Destructoid ahead of my own emotional well being, which I hope can be the shape of things to come. So moving on, I'd like to first thank you for the feedback on my last write-up, and I hope you enjoy this one too!
As a prideful student in creative writing, there exists a pool of words associated with gaming that have been hung and stretched to the realm of cliché for so long that I won’t allow myself to use them. This can be a real pain sometimes when I want to explain something simple, continually having to replace the word “hype” with “press generated around the title in the months coming up to its release,” but it manages to satisfy that egotist side of the brain that keeps me working as a writer. Each time one of my most respected journalists or bloggers - therefore one who I envy the talent - writes a thoughtful piece using one or more of the handful of random words I’ve decided that I don’t like, I can quite easily re-adjust my beret, tip my tiny John Lennon glasses, and snark down at their efforts like a giant douchebag. Ha, Official Nintendo Magazine, you just used the word “casual” to describe a type of game, which I disagree with: ho ho ho, I exclaim, before weeping openly in my palms because I’ll never be as good as them. Whatever gets you through the day.
In not using certain words, I like to think that I’ve developed immunity to their actual meanings. The convoluted lashings of hyperbole and sugar-rush excitement infused into PR speak for example, has become so ridiculous over years of exposure that I’m not entirely sure whom their audience even is (those of us who are used to the gaming industry can read through it, but are also the only people who see PR?). As for the aforementioned case of hype; well, isn’t that just when a developer decides to release little to no information on their game apart from a cool sounding concept, say, a Wii first-person-shooter done properly with Xbox 360 quality graphics, and from there on wait for the yellow submarine to whisk them away into the magical valley where all of this comes true.
This will be better than all of your games put together, plus a million times infinity. I should know. I watched the press conference on Youtube.
To be honest, the reason I have a dislike for this word in particular is not just its overuse (1) but because in most cases it can be interchanged with the much nicer word, “hope,” just without the dressing of a different vowel sound. The Conduit was hyped to be good; The Conduit was hoped to be good. That single letter doesn’t seem like much but changes a lot. In the world we inhabit today, I notice that the former of the two will often be used to assume that any product in question will be amazing, leading to the unfortunate side effect of copious usage of expletives and the Caps Lock key when it only garners a seven on Megacricket, or whatever. The latter on the other hand follows a calmer train of thought with none of the build up, followed only by rations of mild disappointment when an item turns out not to be as impressive as its potential. Hyped, Hoped. You can see why I’m not a fan of the word.
But lets not dwell on semantics for any longer (2), and get onto the bulk of the matter. My own experiences with this game.
The Conduit was a game that had a lot of promise, and I really, really wanted it to live up to that. I’ve actually written about my anticipation for the game before, comparing the unique weaponry and alien bug quashing from the trailer to that of Turok 2 – still one of my absolute favourite shooters of all time – hoping that this new Wii title would be like a second coming of those bygone days. Massive, powerful guns slaying legions of monsters for no better reason than because. An enormous lifespan, with the opportunity to explore a selection of beautiful, exotic locations. Maybe throw in a couple of cheats too: disco-dancing enemies, why the hell not. Combine all of that with pointer controls and that’s my dream shooter right there. I had been completely aware that this illusion would be crushed after reading the streams of (negative) coverage, but this is what I wanted The Conduit to be like. It’s a real shame that positive thinking isn’t enough to carry a person love in this world.
After mediocre reviews, I thought waiting out for the price drop would be the best option. Fortunately, I managed to snap up a copy of the special edition (3) last week in a deal, along with my second choice of Boom Blox Bash Party, which ironically, is going to turn out to be the more enjoyable of the two. Where on earth did things start to go wrong?
The back of the case informs me that this is "the most fluid and intuitive shooter on the Wii" but of course, I have no understanding of such meaningless terms. *scoffs down at box*
Upon booting up The Conjwit for the first time I notice two things. One: I really like the title music. Its sort of reminiscent of the pulsing electric tunes heard in Perfect Dark, which certainly deserves a point to High Voltage for making me remember that fantastic title. The second observation is cheats. Oh sweet mother those lovely beauties of yore are back, and among other goodies hidden away in the extras menu too. Gently brush your eyes past the concept art dross, that every game worthy enough to be printed on a disc these days appears to require as an unlockable even though nobody on this planet cares to stare at artwork on their television more than once due to an irrational need to say that they’ve seen all of what the game has to offer, and you’ll find Achievements. Sweet. I’m sure I’ll have a lot of fun getting those. The attention given to presenting a nice cover to this book is apparent already, and I commend the developers for making a product where even tweaking the options is a pleasant excursion. Well done! Its leagues ahead of the rush job that made up Red Steel’s menu screens. I’m already feeling good, and I haven’t even got to the game yet.
And that good feeling is sustained, at least up until the point I get into my first combat setting. Great! I think, as I walk into the room with old Bob and his six or so identical brothers, proceeding to gun them all down for some reason, because the door won’t open unless I do. Yeah, I murmur, as I go down the next corridor into the same room again, taking out Bob’s clearly inbred cousins who seem to be a little miffed that I murdered the rest of their family. Sigh, I let out, as… I’m sure you get the picture now. If Halo/Killzone/Metroid/insert your favourite here were the titanium of shooters, The Conduit would be the cardboard.
This game has no soul.
Lets make it clear that there are some good, solid systems working behind The Conduit. Pointing and aiming is great, (I didn’t even notice the lock on until half way through) the default controls work nice, and there’s a layer of not brilliant, but pleasing visuals to tide you on. Problem is, I just don’t feel anything. Attacks have no weight to speak of, and even though every weapon looks different, they all merge into the same thing. Existence is only pointing and clicking, with the occasional corridor trawl. There’s no thumping heartbeat to carry you through its campaign. No points where you’ll stop, and take a moment to bask in the amazing world built around you. You’re just doing stuff, for the sake of moving forward. Because that is all there is to do. Its a consistent flat liner, with maybe one or two tremors at various points through its campaign, hoping to present the illusion that possibly, at some point it will spring to life and start dancing like the best of them.
Unfortunately, to my disappointment, I can’t say it ever did.
I'm one of those shallow people who thinks that reloading animation is everything in a shooter, but when an enemy can deplete your entire health in the time it takes to insert a clip, maybe its not so welcome.
Looking deeper, I can see how this game became devoid of a steady pulse, using the mystic practices of where-have-I-seen-this-before? Let us do the list. At first, we are presented with a core game concept, consisting of scanning the walls for various plot points or door switches. Fair enough. There’s some nice organic alien weaponry in there, wrapped around a government conspiracy theory plot. The good guy at the start turns out to be the bad guy about three levels in, and vice-versa. Security must have forgotten to take out no less than four explosive gas canisters from an airport waiting room. A conversation takes place over the credits, presenting a twist to the plot. Those little screaming grunts from Halo are in it. It’s at this point that I realized where the true nature of The Conduit lies.
I have no problem at all with games borrowing ideas from each other, as long as they’re executed in a beneficial way. However, it quickly becomes clear that The Conduit simply a checklist of the last few years’ good ideas in the FPS genre, compressed together in a single package. Problem is, they’ve been compressed to such an extent that the lovely insides’ fans love to feast on got squeezed out in the process, leaving nothing more than a ground up shell to play with. The first rule taught in essay writing is not to draw from too many sources because cohesive argument will get lost underneath the pressure, and that seems to be what happened here. In an attempt to comprise everything great about the genre, The Conduit has fallen into a kind of limbo between the excellent and the awful.
Kevin Sorbo plays Prometheus: your talkative, objective-handing-out sidekick. He sounds a lot more black than I remember him.
Those cheats that got me excited earlier. There are six of them. Three are obtained with the promotional code on the back of the art book, and amount to nothing more than “exclusive skins.” The game’s Xbox style achievement system is nothing special either; with goals not veering any further than your standard complete a level, get all the hidden items, kill a certain number of enemies with a certain gun, and so on. To pad on with some clichés relevant to the situation, The Conduit’s beauty is truly only skin deep. Don’t judge a book by its collector’s edition. Etc.
What confuses me is how High Voltage seemed to be dedicated to bring the game that no other developer could be bothered to do on the Wii, and have it turn out the way it did. Reading over past interviews, it’s clear that the team wanted to make something special, and I really respect them for that. The expensive coating they’ve produced and shined is apparent throughout, but too much stride is lost on the actual game aspect. Here are some assertions I feel the need to make. Timesplitters is still a more enjoyable game, and that came out over half a decade ago. Perfect Dark was even longer. Heck, I even enjoyed blowing stuff up in the buggy, unfinished Red Steel more, and that is coming from a person who couldn’t finish it because his (brand new) disc glitches out and refuses to load a level. What did The Conduit fail to do for me, that all these games managed years ago?
The Conduit. More like... The Condu-shit The Can't-duit. (The Videogame quip what I've done)
I finished everybody’s favourite Double Fine game, Psychonauts quite recently, and to be completely frank, I can’t say I enjoyed playing much of it at all. I encountered far too many graphical and sound glitches for my liking (4) and some difficult controls, which were far too big of a flaw to overlook. However, it had a certain charm that stopped me from completely disliking it. Character and personality course through the invisible veins of Tim Schafer’s effort, even if the outside is a little scratched. It unfolds like an experience, rather than a game, which I believe is the central pillar that all quality products are built upon. Technical wizardry is nice, but if it has no soul, all you have is a series of button presses.
The message needs to be clear: your game doesn’t need shiny-coated graphics, scanning the environment, or any of that superficial stuff to be accepted by an audience. All it needs is to be entertaining. In the five hours and fifty-five minutes I spent completing the single player, part of it was in replaying sections over due to an unknown death, but the majority was walking through the same corridors, fighting through indistinguishable laboratories, and trawling through similar sewer levels. Play the game, and judge for yourself whether you found it entertaining.
Gaming gets my blood pumping like no other medium can. The question to developers is, does it have that effect on you?
Characters. With character. Also a hint of personality. That's what I like to see.
(1) You know when you say a word over and over and over and it seems to lose all its meaning. It’s a bit like that. Even the word “graphics” is a stretch for me to use these days. I think it was only the italics mid-way through the paragraph that prevented me from changing it to “visuals.” Silly boy.
(2) I’ve actually been criticised by both my tutor and myself for never failing to write an anecdotal, overlong introduction to my write-ups, that have little or nothing to do with the actual piece at hand. I kind of like providing this ‘context’ (stretching the word) and I hope other people do too, but if anyone can recommend a medication I could take to stop these unnecessary words spilling from my keyboard it would be greatly appreciated, so I can at least pass my non-fiction class this year.
(3) Special Edition to which I don’t believe a regular edition exists. It only seems to be available in second-hand stores, where it’s likely that the previous owner just forgot to bring the slipcase with them when they traded it. Kind of makes those exclusive unlock codes redundant too, since they’re probably exactly the same between every copy of the game out there. Actually I feel like a fool for using the word probably there.
(4) Most notably, speech refusing to load so characters mouths jabber up and down like soundless puppets, and one moment in which entering into a boss fight presented me with a picture of some sky, meaning I had to fight the battle without being able to see a thing I was doing. Honestly I was glad the game was so short, since I constantly feared falling into some kind of glitch that would make me have to start the entire thing over again.
Hey Destructiod! How are you? That's nice, I've been quite well too! It's been a good while since I've posted anything on here, with final year university/work placements and whatnot to deal with, but I've managed to club some free time together (not spent playing videogames) to write down one of my thoughts of recent times, and present it in this handy blog form. (now with footnotes!) So, here's this thing I made about the evolution of the traditional role-playing game, and how it has changed over the years. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope to see you again soon!
You know those times when you’re on and off with a girl for about three years, whose constant presence within your mind is distracting from everything else in your life even though its clear that you should just be a man and finish her properly because you can’t bear to have those lingering eyes over your shoulder anymore? If yes, well, you’re in the minority but good luck with that I suppose. For everyone else, that was just meant to be a nonsense analogy to describe the needlessly prolonged relationship I had with Final Fantasy III.
No, not the other Final Fantasy III. I'm talking about this monster.
This Christmas would have marked quite a momentous occasion: our three-year anniversary living together. That’s not to say things were perfect between us however. She would lie solemn on my shelf of un-played games, only providing the occasional whisper that maybe, one of these days, I should actually go back and finish what I started instead of getting continually distracted by other things. I would choose not to listen, and go back to playing Pokémon. It was a nice thing we had going on, but like everything in this humble life, it had to change at some point. “Three years, that’s a little excessive don’t you think?” she used to moan from high atop my room. The story goes that eventually it got to that point where I’d finally had enough, so a little while ago, I decided that I would finish the job once and for all, not plugging another cartridge into my DS until it was over. Things were said, tears were shed, some feelings may have changed during the time period, but around two weeks after booting up my fourteen-hour save created around the 2006 holiday season, the deed was finally done. I’d gotten through another title in my favourite long running RPG series. Go me.
But after that, I felt different. Like my begrudging hatred for the old game had somehow intertwined with a kind of love, to form a brand new feeling; ambivalent in ways, but not entirely unpleasant. What was this magical force that had swept over me? Could it be: did I actually enjoy this horrible grind of a game?
You're lucky you're so pretty, otherwise I dont know how I'd put up with you. A bit like my girlfriend.
Going through Final Fantasy III was frustrating to say the least, but in a way it was also rather refreshing, as towards the end and upon its conclusion it piqued some interesting thoughts about the role-playing genre, and how it has changed over the decades as new fans and new technology have become available. To begin to explain the effect this game had on me I’ll have to recall a couple of brief experiences with this beast of a game, mainly those aspects which caught me off guard and proceeded to make my hair fall out. However to begin, I feel some details of myself are necessary so you can see exactly what type of person decided to put himself through this difficult campaign.
Three short things: I like my desk tidy, my room clean, and my shelved games done. I’m also quite the fan of triadic structure; the sharpest of all written structures; but that’s a digression this piece doesn’t require. I’ll let you know first that my interest in playing Final Fantasy III was simply to strike a number off a long list, and my compulsion to play may have been due to a want to finish the unfinished. The last RPG in this numeration I managed to get to the end of was number four on the Game Boy Advance, which is debatably the game in which the series dropped its more “traditional” roots and began its larger focus on characters and plotline. I enjoy exposing myself to a lot of different genres, FFIII fitting the “classic role-player” niche – but let it be also known that I dropped Final Fantasy I for good a few years before III was ever announced (again, the GBA compilation re-release) after reaching the final boss and realizing it was far too difficult for me to ever accomplish. (1) It was probably a combination of the attractive visuals, adorable characters and elusive “unreleased outside Japan” status that lulled me back into bothering with this classic format once more.
Seriously. I do barely 1000 damage per turn and it has twenty-times that hit points plus healing magic which will always recover 9999. I only wish my level was as high as the one in that screen grab!
Now with that out of the way, I can begin to discuss my responses to this game’s foreign structure, starting with the format that dungeons take. In short, I hated it. Allow me to describe your typical Final Fantasy III dungeon experience. Upon arriving at the next plot related cavern, you’ll realize that the monsters inside are just powered enough to do a significant amount of damage to your entire party with each battle, and your reward is more often than not a paltry amount of experience and gold. The fact that the MP system only allows you to take a limited number of healing spells inside each one does not help this matter. Finally, after a long while of fighting random battles you will inadvertently enter a boss chamber who will then proceed to kick your arse in six ways from Sunday, easily losing you up to an hours play with the only residual matter being a very bitter taste. Recalling this now reminds me exactly why I left this game on the shelf two times before I dedicated all my efforts into finishing it.
This initial gripe also ties into the second aspect I disliked about Final Fantasy III. The learning curve, in particular, that of the final boss. Now by the time I’d finally reached the games’ closing chapters, I’d gotten used to the dungeon format. Grind to the end, teleport out before the fight, then go back through while powered up. Simple, and by the time I decided to go anywhere near what I knew was the final room, I made sure, especially sure, that I could slaughter all of the beasts leading up to it in a few moves. Climbing was easy, heck, even the first antagonist that could be better described as “the main bad guy” went down within a few turns, barely a scratch to my name. I was confident that I had the game on its last legs, wistfully journeying on to the pillars of darkness where the true endgame lied.
Looking back, I now concede my confidence to be a foolish mistake. What the hell did I know!
One turn, nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine damage across the board, hour lost, dead. That bitterness has once again returned.
A decade and a half ago, this would be the screen that I both fear and loathe. And cry upon an unending, inevitable stream of failure.
Apparently, there were four “optional” bosses it was possible fight before taking on the final challenge (I put optional in quotations because they’re not really optional at all: you have to face all of them in order to power down the final boss’ strongest attack, which otherwise will always hit for 9999. Even a max-out party couldn’t withstand a single blow) and each of them were far more powerful than anything I’d faced beforehand. That was nice of the game to not tell me anything of the sort at all. After checking gamefaq’s, which had become a necessity by this point, I decided to spend a climb the tower once more, beating each of the “optional” monsters, and facing the less powered Cloud of Darkness, with the knowledge that this time I would certainly win.
Four turns, and my team whose unrelenting courage and strife had crushed everything that came beforehand, had become overpowered. Dead. Again.
I goddamn hated this game.
Hated it so much that I had to finish it. So much that I couldn’t keep my thoughts off training up, becoming stronger and finally beating it. This was my Everest. And I couldn't have been happier with it.
This was the first time in recent years that I’ve ever experienced a final fight that could be described as, for lack of a better term, shit-your-pants hard. As a matter of fact, the third time I approached this monstrosity after training at least ten levels higher than our previous encounter, I was literally shaking with each passing turn, in fear of having the holy heck torn out of my person. Then, totally unexpectedly, I won, and was flushed with a great sense of accomplishment. I’d struggled for a long time through a hard battle worth fighting, and I actually came out alive. Most importantly, I had earned this win.
Did you notice anything wrong with those initial gripes with Final Fantasy III? Lets go and take a look at them again shall we. The monsters in this dungeon are too hard: why can’t I just mash A to win every battle? The boss killed me: why couldn’t I beat it first time? I can’t finish the game off: why doesn’t it hold my hand all the way through and treat me like I’ve no idea where I am or what I’m doing. Where’s the challenge?
I remember fighting this guy for three hours straight, in a long, drawn out showdown of life and death. After his era though, final bosses seem to have lost a bit of their edge.
Final Fantasy XII was an excellent game, one of the best in my opinion, but the climactic showdown of that felt like nothing more than hitting the attack button, and occasionally dipping into a vast supply of healing resources. Lost Odyssey’s environmental level cap made sure that no monster was too strong, if you knew the simple steps on how to fight them. I think back to my Gamecube favourites, Tales of Symphonia and Baten Kaitos, whose final bosses were more like foot soldiers, to be crushed underneath the heels of a party that could take the world twice over if they felt the need to. Great games, but none of them will have you touching cloth (2) as the end draws near.
It's not a judgement I'm making, but an observation. Final Fantasy III succeeds in a way that most role-playing games of today have lost. Its very minimalist story is pushed forward by a desire to succeed in the actual game itself: not the other way around. For myself at least, “story comes first” has been the case with most ventures into the genre. Of course, not to say that’s at all a bad thing. I love the current trends in the genre and the sweeping tale’s that they tell. It’s strange to think that those engaging archetypes I’ve come to know and love today were the predecessors of a genre I mainly go into for its beautifully crafted plotlines and sensual experience.
Currently, my time is being spent with Dragon Quest: The Journey of the Cursed King for the PS2. Regardless of being made in the last few years, I was shocked to find the Dragon Quest difficulty remained intact, (3) with every boss fight and every random encounter being a battle for ones life, with the prospect of death at every turn. And guess what. I absolutely adore it.
The role-playing genre has changed a lot over the years, and now, so has this old fan.
Weirdly brilliant, brilliantly weird; I can't get enough of this world. I probably just have something for bright colours.
(1) Strangely, just a few days ago when I decided to plug the cartridge in once more and see what was so difficult, I managed to down the final boss in a single attempt, without seeing his 9999-point healer a single time. I guess I just got lucky. On a mildly related note, I can now have my list include 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10-2, and 12.
(2) The term, touching cloth, gently refers to the point in which a person needs to use the bathroom so badly that a small amount of poop has protruded from the anus and is “touching the cloth” of the underwear. Apparently it’s a commonly used phrase in Britain, although the first time I heard of it was on the obscure sketch comedy, “That Mitchell and Webb Look.” I would recommend to anyone interested in intelligent witticisms and poo-based humour.
(3) Discovered after a brief fling with the copy of Chapters of the Chosen I picked up quite recently, who now resides on my shelf beside the Pokémon Platinum I just had arrive here. Expect a Dragon Quest written piece similar in tone to this one in around two to three years.